Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a fantastic film that accurately captures what a romantic comedy should be.
Romantic comedies now a days are full of cheap laughs, cliche' moments and predictable plot twists. It is safe to say that Rom-Coms have not had it easy. Having seen so many films try and fail at creating a wonderful romantic comedy, what exactly makes a romantic comedy enjoyable, not only by those looking for a love story but for everyone? As it turns out, Director Lasse Hallstrom knows exactly what it takes.
Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is a charming Scot who enjoys nothing more than focusing on the fish and fisheries that he experts in. When he receives an emai explaining how Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked) is requesting an outlet for his passion for fishing in Yemen, Alfred immediately writes it off. After being reminded that fishing, too, is his passion and the minor detail of being threatened to lose his job, Alfred takes the job and begins to coordinate with the Sheikh's consultant, Harriet (Emily Blunt). Harriet is a beautiful woman who honors and respects her clients, so she takes this fishing project very seriously, where as Alfred treats this project as a big joke. Between flying overseas and spending countless hours together, Alfred and Harriet find themselves in the midst of a blooming romance. But complications arise when Alfred decides if he is truly happy with his wife back home and if Harriet is ready to move on from a previous heartbreak, things begin to grow stressful for their project.
What makes Salmon Fishing in the Yemen such a delight is how much of a shock it really is. At first sight, the title doesn't exactly give off the vibe that it will be the feel good movie of the year. You get the feeling you're going to watch a documentary about fishing in exotic regions. The real surprise, though, is how easy it is to get invested in these characters. Alfred is a complicated man who is borderline a self-realized asbergers patient, with accentricies that are hard not to find completely endearing. While on the other hand, Harriet is strong, independent and invested in making her client completely satisfied. It's the eccentricies of Alfred that are to blame for Harriets' distraction from the project and this is what keeps the film alive. Alfred keeps her smiling while Harriet actually keeps him grounded. This relationship is expertly performed by McGregor and Blunt. They know exactly what to say and how to keep things simple, yet keep you guessing at the next event. Besides the element of reality and humor, Salmon Fishing owes a great deal of its grading to the ability to not take itself seriously.
At its' heart, Salmon Fishing is a touching film that knows when to keep the audience laughing. That doesn't mean Hallstrom won't have fun with his project, though. Flashing between the story is the chaotic and parody performance of Kristin Scott Thomas and her partners. Thomas plays Patricia Maxwell, the head of a major newsprint in the U.K who knows that the world needs levity after a slew of 9/11 stories and reports of terrorism. Maxwell is portrayed with an incredible sense of tongue-in-cheek humor, which gives Salmon Fishing its' own parody on government and political parties. Hallstrom knows how to combine such different elements of humor with ease, giving the film a very specific and original outlook in humor. This allows the film to soar above the preconceived notion that it is just another dry british film with a talented cast.
Marketing for this wonderful film is going to be the overall poison apple here. The marketing is already minimal for Salmon Fishing, but with what trailers I have seen, the tone isn't accurately captured as it focuses to heavily on the idea of the romance being key. That's not to say the relationship between Alfred and Harriet isn't the heartbeat, but the overall tone of this film is something much larger than just love conquers all. In fact, it's the Sheikh who very accurately captures the tone of Salmon Fishing. His insight and determination is extremely similar to the embodiment of Hallstrom's project. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but one that shines out none the less.
Thanks to great performances by everyone involved, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a fantastic film that accurately captures what a romantic comedy should be: Light-hearted, engrossing and very often hilarious. Perhaps Hallstrom discovered the real secret to create a wonderful romantic comedy. All he had to do is go against the stream.